James Beard Outstanding Chefs
“Tacos, whiskey, hillbilly music”—that’s the promise of Chicago’s Big Star, famed chef Paul Kahan’s project with Donnie Madia and mixologist Michael Rubel of Violet Hour. Though they call the place a dive (it’s not), the classic tacos—like the exceptional grilled-pork one here—are impressively fresh. And there’s a take-out window.
David Chang flavors this fabulous broth with dried shiitakes; fresh shiitakes intensify the flavor. The highlight: simple noodles thrown in at the end. “They’re based on the udon I learned to make in Tokyo,” Chang says.
Recipe: Smoky Paella with Shrimp and Squid
José Andrés prepares this satisfying rice dish with lots of seafood, including hard-to-find cuttlefish, and a house-made fish stock. To make it even easier, use squid in place of the cuttlefish, and skip the fish stock in favor of bottled clam broth from the supermarket.
Recipe: Braised Short Ribs
Tom Colicchio is a master with meat, and his tender, succulent braised short ribs are much in demand at his Craft restaurants. He marinates the short ribs along with vegetables in wine, then discards those vegetables and braises the ribs with fresh vegetables. To make it simpler, use the same vegetables in the marinade and the braise.
Recipe: Chicken Soup with Rosemary Matzo Balls
At Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, chef Dan Barber prepares this soup with seasonal chicken (raised in late spring, summer and fall), using wings, backs, necks and feet. His recipe yields almost eight quarts of broth, so there's plenty to freeze. He likes serving the soup with fluffy matzo balls laced with rosemary.
Recipe: Spinach and Ricotta Pappardelle
Lidia Bastianich stuffs homemade ravioli with ricotta, leeks, scallions and spinach, then serves it in a butter-sage sauce. To make this dish more easily, deconstruct the ravioli by mixing pappardelle with all the ingredients in the filling (except the labor-intensive leeks).
Recipe: Grant's Mac and Cheese
You would expect Grant Achatz's macaroni and cheese to have some chef tricks, but it doesn't. He uses a white sauce, elbow macaroni and cheddar cheese, just like the rest of us. His personal touch: a tablespoon of paprika (to enhance the color of the sauce) and lots of smoky, crisp bacon bits.
Recipe: Honey-Glazed Duck with Savoy Cabbage
At Bouley, in New York City, David Bouley serves Long Island duckling with a sticky glaze made from chestnuts and acacia honey, as well as with wheat berries, garlic chives and gingery cabbage. To make it easier, streamline the recipe by preparing just the honey-glazed duck breast and the ginger-and-garlic Savoy cabbage with chives.
Recipe: Roast Chicken with Bread Salad
This roast chicken, from chef Judy Rodgers at San Francisco’s Zuni Café, is legendary. The reason it’s so good is because she insists on small free-range birds (which tend to be juicier than large, lean roasters), a 24-hour salting period to allow the seasoning to penetrate deeply and a high roasting temperature for a supremely crispy skin.
Recipe: Eric Ripert's Surf and Turf
This luxe surf and turf features escolar, a deliciously fatty fish, and extravagantly marbled Kobe or wagyu beef.
Recipe: Very Soft Polenta with Rock Shrimp Ragout
This is Mario Batali's variation on a classic dish from the coastal villages outside of Trieste, where the fresh seafood is among the most prized in the world. The polenta that accompanies the shrimp must be very soft, almost saucelike. "Thick, lumpy polenta is criminal in that part of Italy, and justly so," Batali says.
Recipe: Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, Caviar and Dill Cream
Although Wolfgang Puck is best known for putting smoked salmon, caviar and dill-flecked crème fraîche on his designer pizzas, he also loves this trio of toppings with his exceptionally crispy potato pancakes, a dish he makes frequently when cooking at home. All three garnishes are wonderfully decadent together; still, you can leave out the smoked salmon or the caviar.
Recipe: Sorrel Mousse with Lemon Cream
When he was working as a caterer, Patrick O'Connell would often study the cookbooks at his local library during his downtime. He discovered his affinity for French food while reading the works of legendary writer Elizabeth David; he especially loved the sorrel sauce he found in her 1960 book, French Provincial Cooking. When he opened The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia, he experimented with sorrel in lots of different ways, eventually creating this exquisite, tangy mousse.
Recipe: White Chocolate-Coated Grapes with Orange Curd
A fine layer of white chocolate gives both green and red grapes a creamy crunch. The orange curd dipping sauce could not be simpler; it's hard to imagine a more elegant use of the microwave.